Education Secretary Angela Constance found out what gets the minds of young engineers whirring today (Monday 18 May) when she joined Forth Valley College‘s Engineering Experience at The Falkirk Wheel.
As part of Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2015, the Scottish Secretary observed how the college event inspired local schoolchildren on the various pathways into the engineering sector – locally and nationally – so they can decide whether it is something they want to pursue.
A total of 36 pupils from Airth, Carmuirs, Comely Park, Hallglen, Kinneil, Stenhousemuir and Wallacestone Primary Schools all from the Falkirk area, took part in a ‘Guess the Engineering Specialism’ interactive activity, posed questions about how to become an apprentice to current FVC Engineering Modern Apprentices (MAs) and chatted with the Education Secretary.
The pupils were also treated to a boat trip on The Falkirk Wheel and a talk on mechanics, before enjoying lunch at the popular tourist attraction. In the afternoon the group were whisked away to the Grangemouth petro-chemical complex where they were given a tour of the INEOS exhibition centre. The youngsters completed their day-trip with a tour of Forth Valley College’s state-of-the-art £1.2 million engineering workshops and facilities at their Falkirk Campus.
Ms Constance said: “The opportunities for people with engineering skills are incredible and varied. Without the expertise of people designing, building and maintaining machinery, equipment and infrastructure, our society and economy would simply cease to function.
“Standing in the shadow of an incredible engineering achievement like The Falkirk Wheel it is easy to be inspired, to think about whether engineering is something that you have an interest in or the skills to succeed in. The FVC Engineering Experience allows Falkirk pupils to recognise the opportunities there are out there if they follow this path. What is so important is that it shows how accessible it is, right here, to all of these girls and boys and not some distant or impossible path to take.
“All across the country apprentices are using their engineering talents to learn skills while they work in some of the biggest names in aeronautics, automotive and energy industries. Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2015 is about showcasing the huge contribution modern apprentices make to these businesses and industries and the value the programme brings to employers and to young people’s own job prospects.”
Dr Ken Thomson, Principal of Forth Valley College, said: “I am delighted that the Education Secretary is here today to see how we hope to inspire the next generation of engineering professionals. What better place than the spectacular Falkirk Wheel – which is a superb testament to Scottish engineering expertise – to show how Forth Valley College helps to inspire youngsters in the Forth Valley area.
“As one of the biggest trainers of Modern Apprentices in Scotland, Scottish Apprenticeship Week is a very important event in the academic calendar for Forth Valley College. We are very proud of the range and quality of MAs that we train from day to day and we are always looking to encourage even more businesses in Central Scotland to consider the benefits of taking on more apprentices.”
Steve Dougan Falkirk Council’s Opportunities for All Co-ordinator, said: “It was great to see so many enthusiastic pupils from Falkirk’s Primary Schools come along and learn about the role of an engineer and also what they would need to do to become a Modern Apprentice. More and more of our young people are realising that becoming an MA, where they can earn while they learn, is an excellent route towards a professional career. It’s also very encouraging to see so many girls on the trip showing such an interest in engineering.
“Falkirk Council and Forth Valley College work closely together on several cutting edge educational initiatives and we are delighted that the Minister was able to be at this one to encourage the youngsters in the Falkirk area.”
David Lamont, Director of Operations at Scottish Canals, said: “From the world’s only rotating boat lift to the largest pair of equine sculptures on the planet, Scotland’s 200-year-old canals are home to innovative engineering on a grand scale.
“I hope that today’s experience inspires the students to follow in the footsteps of pioneers like Stirlingshire-born Hugh Baird, the visionary engineer who carved out the Union Canal almost two centuries ago, to safeguard and build upon Scotland’s incredible engineering legacy.”
Paul Allan, a 4th year MA with INEOS who welcomed the students to the Grangemouth site, said: “It is very important that we encourage young people, as I was encouraged, to find out more about engineering and the vital role it plays in our lives. Events like this are an ideal opportunity to highlight the benefits of engineering as a career.”